Slow & steady: Speeding most common factor behind car crashes, study finds

WATERLOO, Ontario — When it comes to driving safely, nothing may be as important as how much faster you’re going past the speed limit. According to a study by researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada, speeding is the riskiest type of aggressive driving.

The authors made the determination after analyzing tracking devices in vehicles from 28 million trips to find possible links between four common bad driving behaviors: speeding, hard acceleration, hard cornering, and hard braking, and the likelihood of crashes.

The researchers found that speeding is a strong predictor of car crashes, but they couldn’t find statistically significant links for other types of aggressive driving.

“For insurance companies using this telematics data to assess who is a good risk and who isn’t, our suggestion based on the data is to look at speed, at people driving too fast,” said Stefan Steiner, a statistics professor in Waterloo’s Faculty of Mathematics, in a release.

Researchers obtained data from insurance companies in Ontario and Texas that had previously installed monitoring devices inside clients’ vehicles. They were able to identify 28 crashes based on unsafe driving indicators like rapid deceleration. Those vehicles were then paired with 20 control vehicles which had not been involved in any crashes, but had similar characteristics, such as geographic location and driving distance.

The authors compared the control cases to the crash cases using a complex penalty system for the four types of bad driving. They found that speeding was the key difference between them.

“Some of the results are no surprise, but prior to this we had a whole industry based on intuition,” notes co-author Allaa (Ella) Hilal, an adjunct professor of electrical and computer engineering at the university. “Now it is formulated – we know aggressive driving has an impact.”

The study is published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention.

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